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OER action around the state

It’s a hot moment for the open education movement in Oregon. Over the past 5 years, I’ve worked on OER (open educational resources) initiatives at two colleges now — Lane Community College and now at Portland Community College — and, finally, it feels like there is statewide momentum. At many institutions, libraries are leading the way to more affordable education by helping instructors replace expensive course materials with open or library-provided materials. ACRL-OR has already honored one great project out of CGCC, and many other colleges are working on similar initiatives.

Here at PCC, we’re proud to report that open and low-cost materials are already saving students over $70,000 per term, but we’re pressing to do more. Our OER Steering Committee, which I co-chair with our fantastic colleague, Rachel Bridgewater, has set a goal to save students 1 million dollars by fall 2017. We currently have 3 PCC teams who received state funding from openoregon.org in math, reading, and health, and I’m working to prep folks to apply for the second round of funding, which should be announced later this fall.

Screenshot of Oregon House Bill 2871

In other big news, over the summer, the Oregon legislature passed a bill, HB 2871, which:

  • funds 2 OER positions within HECC
  • requires HECC to identify OER for 30 transferable, high-enrollment courses
  • funds OER “grant programs” for Oregon colleges and universities
  • requires Oregon colleges and universities to label “low cost or no cost” courses in their catalogs and schedules

Wow. There’s a lot packed in there, and we’ve got our work cut out for us, but, here at PCC, we’re hopeful that this means more productive funding and OER energy from the state.

Meanwhile, back at PCC, I’m grateful to have such wonderful librarian colleagues who have been helping interested faculty in their liaison areas explore OER. Especially at such a large institution, it really takes a village to get any traction. We’ve got faculty in many disciplines experimenting, and some who have used open resources for years, but many are still skeptical. This year, I am going to continue to reach out to faculty, especially in high-enrollment transfer classes where many open options already exists (check out the University of Minnesota’s Open Textbook Library for a start). If we can get just one or two of those courses to switch from a traditional textbook to an open one, the potential student savings would be huge, and faculty in other areas would have a local model to build upon.

Is your institution exploring or creating OER? How are you involved?

Join us for the PNW Institutional Repository User Group – Planning Meeting!

Graphic for IR

ALA graphic for IR. Click image for source.

As more academic libraries have focused on how best to collect, preserve, and promote the scholarly and creative work of our faculty and students, it has created a new community of practice within the Pacific Northwest. We would like to bring that community together to share ideas and best practices and to identify opportunities for collaboration.

Our tentative goal is to create an annual IR user group meeting for IR managers in the Pacific Northwest (with the initial meeting in 2016). As a first step, we are having a planning meeting that is adjacent to the 2015 Orbis Cascade Alliance Summer Meeting. Anyone working with an IR in the Pacific Northwest is welcome to attend this meeting — membership in the Alliance is not required (nor will it be limited to be press institutions).

If you’re not able to attend, please send us your ideas for what a PNW IR user group meeting could/should look like (and whether it’s even a good idea!).

Date: July 9, 2015 / 12-1 pm

Location: Warner Pacific College, Room 120 (next to the cafeteria)

Details: Lunch is not provided, so bring a snack or brown bag lunch. We may adjourn to a local restaurant afterwards for a late lunch if there is interest.

Contact: Karen Bjork (kbjork@pdx.edu), Isaac Gilman (gilmani@pacificu.edu), Sue Kunda (kundas@mail.wou.edu), or Kathleen Spring (kspring@linfield.edu)

~ Isaac Gilman (ACRL-Oregon Past President, 2014-2015)
Scholarly Communications & Research Services Librarian
Pacific University

Books Mentioned at Menucha

The following titles are ones mentioned in the keynote addresses and talks at the ACRL-Oregon/Washington Joint Fall Conference in Menucha:

There was an informal suggestion at the conference for a virtual book club or an ACRL-OR/WA book list in Goodreads… any thoughts or further suggestions?

2013 ACRL Legislative Agenda

The ACRL Update announced the 2013 ACRL Legislative Agenda today. It:

focuses on three issues that the U.S. Congress has recently taken, or will most likely take, action on in the year ahead: first sale doctrine, public access to federally funded research, and federal funding for libraries. New this year, the agenda includes a watch list of policy issues of great concern to academic librarians. Legislation on these issues is not likely to arise and, moreover, ACRL does not believe that any legislation about these issues is necessary. Issues on the watch list are: government information, safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, orphan works/section 108, and fair use. ACRL will continue tracking these issues and advocate for the best interests of academic and research libraries, if necessary.

The announcement also reminds members to advocate for libraries by contacting their representatives in Congress in May as part of Virtual Library Legislative Day. There will be events during the week of May 6-10, 2013.


Why EveryLibrary is important to academic libraries of all types

At least one academic institution has an initiative on the ballot this November. It is a bond referendum for Wake Technical Community College (Raleigh, NC) that, as part of an expansion, will add a “full-size library – more than twice the space of the current facility.” However, this is not the only reason that supporters and employees of academic libraries should be taking note of EveryLibrary. EveryLibrary is the first and only Federal level Political Action Committee. EveryLibrary is non-partisan and pro-library.  It takes money to do voter outreach and get-out-the-vote right.  No moneys are spent on party politics or candidates.

But what does that really mean to you? Here are a few things that EveryLibrary can do:

  • Assist libraries in both the pre-filing and campaign stages of an initiative.
  • Provide strategic consulting services, voter segmentation advice, and assistance in developing ballot language.
  • Conduct feasibility studies and assist in setting up a local committee or PAC.
  • Develop a fundraising strategy for your local committee or PAC.
  • Train volunteers in voter education and get-out-the-vote techniques.

From now until November 7th EveryLibrary is trying to raise $50,000 to be able to:

  • Fundraise nationally to transfer “seed money” to local ballot committees and PACs
  • Hire great campaign consultants to make sure we do voter outreach and education right
  • Fund full time staff to keep the PAC engine growing for future success

Please consider making a donation to EveryLibrary. Oregon, let’s help this great organization get some rubber on the ground!

Contact Erica Findley (erica.findley [at] pacificu.edu) if you have any questions.

Moving from Institute to Network: Reflections on the Oregon Tribal Archives Institute, October 12, 2012

The Oregon State University Library Faculty Association invites all interested colleagues and friends to attend the first presentation of the 2012/2013 Library Faculty Seminar Series on October 12, 2012 from 10:00-11:30am.

Moving from Institute to Network: Reflections on the Oregon Tribal Archives Institute chronicles a two-year project including the culminating event, the OSU-hosted Oregon Tribal Archives Institute held August 19-24, 2012. Made possible by a two-year Library Services & Technology Act (LSTA) grant, the Institute was designed to address the need for in-depth archives and records management training for Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes to support and facilitate the preservation of the cultural sovereignty of tribal nations through their archival collections and records.

Natalia Fernández, Oregon Multicultural Librarian, Tiah Edmunson-Morton, OSU Libraries’ Instruction and Outreach Archivist, and Larry Landis, Special Collections and Archives Research Center Director, collectively the Institute Planning Committee, will discuss the grant process, conducting site visits with all nine tribes’ records and archives personnel, creating needs assessment reports, designing a needs-based curriculum and planning a week-long conference. The committee will also reflect on the Institute itself and share future plans.

The presentation will take place in the Willamette Industries Seminar Rooms on the third floor of the Valley Library (VL 3622): http://osulibrary.oregonstate.edu/visit

Please contact Uta Hussong-Christian, uta.hussong-christian@oregonstate.edu, with any questions.

Alliance Research Interest Group (A-RIG) – Friday, September 21, 10 a.m.-12 noon ONLINE (GOTO MEETING)

Interested in doing research on libraries or librarianship and not sure how to start? Have you started, but need some collegial support and encouragement to continue? Just want to talk to other librarians who also are interested in this topic? Consider participating in the Orbis Cascade Alliance Research Interest Group. Your library does not have to be part of the Orbis Cascade Alliance in order for you to participate.

The Orbis Cascade Alliance Research Interest Group (A-RIG, http://www.orbiscascade.org/index/research-interest-group) will hold its next meeting (Friday, September 21, 2012, 10 a.m.-12 noon) online using the GoTo Meeting software and include an in-person component in the Autzen classroom at Oregon State University’s Valley Library in Corvallis, Oregon. Log in online (instructions below) or come to the OSU Library if you want to be with other A-RIGers or chat with colleagues face to face before or after the online meeting.

A-RIG meetings are specifically synchronized for the morning of ACRL-OR meeting days to allow for greater participation from interested parties and to facilitate coordination between groups.

Many thanks to OLA for providing online meeting support and to Anne-Marie Deitering and her colleagues at OSU Valley Library for providing the in-person space.

1. Introductions (All)
2. OLA/WLA pre-conference proposal (Robin Paynter)
3. Liaison between A-RIG and ACRL-OR – Call for volunteers (Robin Paynter and Laura Zeigen)
4. Project updates (All)
5. Research resources/continuing education of interest (All)
6. Other ideas and comments (All)

Friday, September 21, 2012

10 a.m.-12 noon

Online and Autzen classroom at OSU Valley Library. Instructions on how to participate are below:
1. Please join my meeting.

2. Use your microphone and speakers (VoIP) – a headset is recommended. Or, call in using your telephone.
Dial +1 (636) 277-0137
Access Code: 593-822-406
Audio PIN: Shown after joining the meeting
Meeting ID: 593-822-406

If you have any questions about this meeting or about the A-RIG group, please contact me.


Laura Zeigen, MA, MLIS, AHIP
User Experience Librarian | Assistant Professor
Oregon Health & Science University
3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road – LIB
Portland, Oregon 97239
zeigenl@ohsu.edu | 503-494-0505

A Brief Trip into Technology Planning, Brought to You By Meebo

A Brief Trip into Technology Planning, Brought to You By Meebo. (From ACRL Tech Connect)


The Day That Meebo Died

Today is the day that many librarians running reference services dreaded – Meebo discontinuing most of their products (with the exception of the Meebo Bar). Even though Meebo (or parts of it) will still live on in various Google products, that still doesn’t help those libraries who have build services and applications around a product that has been around for a while (Meebo was established in 2005).

If Meebo was any indication, even established, long running technology services can go away without much advanced notice. What is a library to do with incorporating third party applications, then? There is no way to ensure that all the services and applications that you use at your library will still be in existence for any length of time. Change is about the only constant in technology and it is up to us who deal with technology to plan for that change.

How to avoid backing your library into a corner with no escape route in sight

The worst has happened – the application you’re using is no longer being supported. Or, in a more positive light,  there’s a new alternative out there that performs better than the application your library is currently using at the moment.  The scenarios above have different priorities; migration due to discontinuation of support will probably happen on a faster timeline than upgrading to a better application. Overall, you should be prepared to survive without your current 3rd party applications with minimal amount of content loss and service disruption. For this post I’ll be focusing on third party application support and availability. Disruptions due to natural disasters, like fire, flooding, or, in Grinnell’s case, tornadoes, is equally important, but will not be covered at length in this post.

Competition (or lack there of)

When news broke that Google purchased Meebo, most weren’t sure about what would be next for the chat service. Soon afterwards, Meebo gave a month’s notice about the discontinuation of most of their products. Fortunately, alternative chat services were plentiful. Our library, for example, subscribes to LibraryH3lp, but we were using Meebo Messenger as well as the MeeboMe widget for some course pages to supplement LibraryH3lp’s services. After the announcement, our library quickly switched the messenger with Pidgin, and are working on replacing the Meebo widgets with LibraryH3lp’s widgets.

Having a diverse, healthy pool of different applications to choose from for a particular service is a good place to be when the application you use is no longer supported. Migrations are never fun, but consider the alternative. If you’re using a service or application that does not have readily available alternatives, how will your services be affected when that application is no longer supported?

The last question wasn’t rhetorical. If your answer is looking at a major service disruption, especially to services that are deemed by your library as mission-critical, then you’re putting yourself and the library in a precarious position. The same goes if the alternatives out there require a different technical skill set from your library staff. Applications that require a more advanced technical skill set will require more training and run the heightened risk of staff rejection if the required skill level is set too high.

Data wants to be backed up

Where’s your data right now? Can you export it out of the application? Do you even know if you can export your data or not? If not, then you’re setting yourself up for a preventable emergency. Exporting functionality and backups are especially important for services that are living outside of your direct control, like a hosted service. While most hosted services have backup servers to prevent loss of customer data, you should still have the ability to export your data and store it outside of the application. It’s best practice and gives you the peace of mind that you do not have to recreate years’ worth of work to restore data lost due to vendor error or lack of export functionality.

Another product that is widely used by academic libraries, LibGuides, provides a backup feature where you can export your guides in XML or individual guides in HTML. It will take some work for formatting and posting the data if needed, but the important thing is that you have your data and you can either host it locally in case of emergencies or harvest the content when the time comes to move on to another application.

Some technology service audit questions

Here are some general questions to start you down the path of evaluating where your library currently stands with third party applications you rely on for providing specific library services. Don’t worry if you find yourself not as prepared as you want to be. It’s better to start now than when you learn that another application you use will be shutting down.

  • What third party applications does your library currently use to provide library services?
  • Are there other comparable services/applications available?
    • What training resources are available for alternative applications?
    • What technical skills do these applications require? Are they compatible with the technical skills found with the majority of library staff?
  • Which applications are used for mission-critical library services?
  • Can you export your data and/or settings from the application?
    • If so, how often is the data being exported?
    • Where is the backup file stored? Locally? Remotely?
  • What is the plan if the application…
    • …is no longer supported?
    • …goes offline due to a service disruption?
      • …for a couple of hours?
      • …longer than a day?
      • …during finals week/first week of the semester/midterms (high pressure/high stakes times for library users)?

While there are many potential landmines when using third party applications for library services, these applications overall help expand and provide user services in various ways. Instead of becoming a technological recluse and shunning outside applications, use these applications wisely and make sure that your library has a plan in place.

Creating quick solutions and having fun: the joy of hackathons

Creating quick solutions and having fun: the joy of hackathons (from ACRL Tech Connect)

Hackathons– aka “hackfests”, “codefests”, or “codeathons”, are time periods dedicated to “hacking” on a problem, or creating a quick and dirty technical solution. (They have nothing to do with “hackers” in the virus or breaking into computers sense of the word). Traditionally, hackathons gave developers a chance to meet in person to work on specific technologies or platforms.  But increasingly, the concept of hackathons are used to work on solving technical problems or developing new ideas using technology in fields such as  law, public data, water supply, and making the world a better place. Academic librarians should be thinking about hackathons for several reasons: first, we help researchers to learn about innovative tools and resources in their areas, and these days a lot of this work is happening in hackathon settings. Second, hackathons are often improve library technology in open source and proprietary products alike. And third, hackathons are sometimes taking place in academic libraries (such as the University of Michigan and the University of Florida). Even non-coders can and should keep an eye on what’s going on with hackathons and start getting involved.

Origins of hackathons

People have, of course, hacked at technical problems and created innovative technical solutions since the beginning of computing. But the first known use of the term “hackathon” to describe a specific event was in June of 1999 when a group of OpenBSD developers met in Calgary to work on cryptography (see more on the record of OpenBSD hackathons). Later that same month, Sun Microsystems used the term on a Palm V project. 1 Just as in a marathon, individuals came together to accomplish a very challenging project in a short and fixed amount of time.

The term and concept became increasingly popular over the course of the first decade of the 2000s. The concept can vary widely, but is usually understood to mean a short time period (often a weekend) during which a specific problem is addressed by a group of developers working together, often by themselves but in close enough proximity to each other to meet and discuss issues. They usually are in person events where everyone meets in one location, but can be distributed virtual events. Often hackathons have prizes for best solution, and are a chance for developers to show off their talent to potential employers–sometimes companies sponsor them specifically to find new employees. But they can also be an opportunity for incubating new and learning developers (Layer 7).

Hackathons can be organized around an existing open source software community, but also frequently take place within a company to give developers a chance to come up with innovative ideas. One notable example is Facebook. In Pedram Keyani’s post, he describes the excitement that regular hackathons provide for Facebook’s engineers by giving them a chance to work on an idea without worrying about whether it scales to 900 million people. After the hackathon, developers present their prototypes to the rest of the team and have two minutes to prove that they should be part of Facebook. Some features that were developed during hackathons include the “Like” button and the ability to tag users in comments–huge pieces of functionality that might not be there without hackathons.

Hackathons in library technology

The first library technology hackathon we know about happened at the Access 2002 conference, and was modeled after PyCon code sprints (Art Rhyno, email message to author, July 18, 2012). The developers at this hackathon worked on projects related to content management systems for cultural content, citation digests, and EZProxy tools. Since then, each Access conference has had a hackathon as part of the conference. The Code4Lib conference has also had elements of hackathons (often as pre-conferences) throughout the years.

Another example of hackathons those sponsored by library vendors to promote the use of their  products’ API’s. Simply put, APIs are ways that data can go between platforms or programs so that you can create new tools with pieces of data from other systems. In 2008, OCLC sponsored a hackathon in New York City where they provided special access to various pieces of WorldCat and other OCLC products. Staff from OCLC were on hand to answer questions and facilitate breakout sessions. Hacks included work with controlled vocabularies, “find more like this” recommendation services, and several other items (Morgan). Eric Morgan, one of the participants, described  the event as a success partly because it was a good example of how librarians can take control of their vendor provided tools by learning how to get the data out and use in other ways.

How to get involved with hackathons

It’s easy to be discouraged or overwhelmed about the idea of participating in a hackathon if you are new to the open source software world. First of all, it’s important to remember that librarians who work with technology on a daily basis have a lot of ideas about how to improve the tools in their libraries. An example of this are the ideas submitted for the Access 2011 Hackfest. Ideas included bookmarklets, augmented reality in the library, and using iPads for self-checkout among many others. Reading that list may start to jog your own memory for tools you would love to see in your library but didn’t have a chance to work on yet or don’t completely understand.

But how to take those ideas and get involved with fellow developers who can help complete those projects? Many resources exist to help with this, but there are a few specifically geared at hackathons. First,  OpenHatch  is an open source project with the mission to make it easier to participate in open source software. One feature helpful to those just starting out are “Training Missions” that walk through basic skills you need such as working on the command line and using version control systems. Another area of OpenHatch shows lists of projects suitable for beginners and information on how non-coders can participate in projects. Keep an eye on the events listed there to find events geared for beginners or people still learning. Another resource for finding out and signing up for hackathons is  Hackathon.io.

Try to participate in a hackathon at the next technical library conference you attend. You can also start small by meeting up with librarians in your area for a very informal library technology hackathon. Make sure that you document what you work on and what the results were. Don’t worry about having judges or prizes–just make it a fun and collaborative event that allows everyone to participate and learn something new. You don’t need to create something new, either. This could be a great opportunity to learn how to work all the bells and whistles of a vendor platform or a social media tool.

Don’t worry–just start hacking

You can approach hackathons in whatever way works for you. For some, hackathons provide  the excitement of competing for prizes or great jobs by staying up all night coding amongst fellow developers. If the idea of staying up all night looking at a computer screen leaves you cold, don’t worry. In a April blog post, Andromeda Yelton shared her experience attending her first hackathon, and encouraged those new to this type of event to “sit at the table” both physically and by understanding that they have something to contribute even if they are not experts. She suggests that the minimum it should take to be involved in hackathons or similar projects is “interest, aptitude… [and a] drive to contribute.” (Yelton)

There are a lot of problems out there in the library world. Hackathons show us that sometimes all it takes is a weekend to get closer to a solution. But don’t worry about solving all the problems. Just pick the one you are most concerned about, find some friends, and start hacking on it.

Works cited
Layer 7 Technologies. “How to Run a Successful Hackathon for Your Open APIs”. July 12, 2012. http://www.slideshare.net/rnewton/how-to-run-a-successful-hackathon-for-your-open-apis.
Morgan, Eric Lease. “WorldCat Hackathon « Infomotions Mini-Musings.” Infomotions Mini-Musings, November 9, 2008. http://infomotions.com/blog/2008/11/worldcat-hackathon/.
Yelton, Andromeda. “My First Hackathon; or, Gender, Status, Code, and Sitting at the Table.” Across Divided Networks, April 6, 2012. http://andromedayelton.com/blog/2012/04/06/my-first-hackathon-or-gender-status-code-and-sitting-at-the-table/.
  1. This information comes from Wikipedia, but does not have a citation and I am unable to independently verify it. This is presented as common knowledge in a variety of sources, but not cited.

ALA’s 2012 State of America’s Libraries: Academic Libraries

As academic librarians and their colleagues in higher education in the United States continued to navigate the “new normal,” characterized by stagnating budgets, unsustainable costs, increased student enrollments, and reduced staff, the pressure on higher education to demonstrate value took on new urgency and importance in 2011–2012. While several stinging reports concluded that learning outcomes for students in post-secondary institutions are limited and that students are “academically adrift” and do not work very hard, others saw a “value gap” and questioned whether going to any college at any price was worth it.

Given the new focus on academic rigor as part of the value proposition, the contributions of academic librarians to student learning and critical thinking assumed an even more important role than before. Most students entering college in the fall of 2011 acknowledged that they lacked the research skills needed to complete assignments and be successful in an information-intensive economy: a survey of incoming first-year students found that 60 % do not evaluate the quality or reliability of information; 75 % do not know how to locate research articles and resources; and 44 % do not know how to integrate knowledge from different sources.